It’s no secret that running is an advantageous activity for burning calories, building lean muscle mass and releasing stress-busting endorphins. However, the positive effects of running reach far beyond the physical benefits. Developing social contacts through running clubs, feeding your competitive fire and enhancing your self-confidence are all aspects that can be accomplished through running.
Running long distances, such as half and full marathons, can help to prevent metabolic syndrome, according to a study published in the March 2009 issue of "Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise," the scientific journal of the American College of Sports Medicine. Metabolic syndrome increases your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. There’s no need to run an official marathon to gain the positive benefits; incorporating longer runs, such as 10 miles, in your exercise program can lead to the same results. Competitor recommends a running schedule that includes three runs per week, consisting of an endurance run, tempo day and speed work. Increase your distance gradually if you are new to running; adding 10 to 20 percent of mileage per week can allow your body to acclimate to the increased stress while reducing the chance of overuse injuries.
If you have been feeling stressed out, even to the point of being mildly depressed, running may offer a solution. A study in the September 1994 issue of the "Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness" showed that positive mood was increased, while negative feelings were decreased, following strenuous exercise, such as running. Likewise, Harvard Health Publications reports that performing aerobic exercise for a total of 180 minutes per week, over three to five sessions, can help to alleviate mild to moderate depression. Along with feeling a sense of accomplishment from pushing yourself out the door, running has a positive, almost drug-like, effect on the brain reward pathways. Stress is released and a greater sense of well-being takes over.
Run Your Race
Races aren’t just for hard-core competitors; signing up for a race feeds training motivation while providing the opportunity to reach new distance or speed goals. Running races are offered throughout the world in a wide variety of distances, locales and intensity levels, which means that you can choose the race that’s just right for you. New runners may want to get their feet wet with a 5K on a flat course that is close to home. Experienced runners looking for something out of the ordinary have an abundance of races to choose from, including half-marathons, marathons, fun runs, mud runs and obstacle course runs.
With or Without
As a runner, you can choose whether you want to make your session social or solo. Joining a running club or gathering some friends together for a weekly run provides a social outlet and helps you to expand your social circle. Running with others also offers accountability; it’s tough to slack off when the rest of the group is pushing their limits. On the other hand, if you need quiet time to de-stress from work and family obligations, going for a run by yourself can help you to temporarily get away. Allow the run to be a moving meditation as you work on your form, breathing and pace.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Long-Distance Runners Less Likely to Have Metabolic Syndrome
- Competitor: Running 101: How Often Should You Run?
- Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness: Qualitative and Quantitative Effects of Running on Mood
- Philly.com: Running: How to Pick Your Next Race
- Runner’s World: Perks of Running Solo or Social
- Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: Lower Prevalence of Hypertension, Hypercholesterolemia, and Diabetes in Marathoners
- Harvard Health Publications: Exercise and Depression
- Photo Credit monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images
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